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Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles: 10/04/18
Back in December my husband saw an article about the upcoming serious comic about Snagglepuss, reimagining him as a gay playwright in 1950s New York. The description and the cover art for Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan alone was enough for us to immediately preorder a copy of the final omnibus. So the short version of this review: did it live up to our expectations. Yes.
Placing Snagglepuss in the era of the HUAAC trials is logical and brilliant. Here's why.
When he was most frequently on TV, it was the 1970s. He was part of the schlock HannaBarbara was flooding children's television with. I most remember him as the host of the Laff Olympics. He was a tall, bright pink maybe mountain lion, and obvious rip-off of the Pink Panther as created by Friz Freleng for the Blake Edwards films. To make matters worse he was voiced with the then camp "gay voice."
Post blacklisting, actors taken down by the HUAAC witch hunt, often found new, much lower profile roles in god awful TV series. TV in the 1950s and 1960s was still a relatively new form of entertainment and it took a while to gain "legitimacy." Rising filmmaking costs, the break-up of the old top down studio to theater distribution system, and the end of the Hays code (replaced by the first version of our modern day rating system) made it tough for Hollywood in the 1970s.
Reimagining Snagglepuss as someone who was as out as was possible in the hyper conservative, very white, very heteronormative 1950s, makes a hell of a lot of sense to anyone who watched his cartoons in the 1970s alongside the live action series staring of Rock Hudson (MacMillan and Wife) and Ironside (Raymond Burr). Both shows were a step down (though with their San Francisco settings, more in tune with their well known but never mentioned sexual orientations) from their earlier roles.
So by using a coded as gay (to be funny) cartoon character to show what life was like for queer entertainers in the 1950s makes a lot of sense. It gives a chance to re-contextualize Snagglepuss in terms of a historical era. It makes a once annoying character understandable and sympathetic.